Kung Hei Fat Choi! – more Hong Kong

Day 2,689 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

Work hard and achieve

pano

We have now entered the year of the Metal Ox. Can you feel the difference? In late 2020 I announced that I have been working on something big which I look forward to sharing with you all. We are getting closer now! It is unfortunately not a solution to reach the next country but I think it will still make your jaw drop. Stay tuned over the next weeks and you’ll find out.

Last week’s entry: The long game – sticking it out in Hong Kong

‘Kung Hei Fat Choi’ is the Cantonese phrase used for saying “Congratulations and be prosperous” during the Chinese New Year. Yeah, I took some heat a few weeks ago for calling it Chinese New Year because “some people” had a different idea about what we should be calling it. I suppose the 1.4 billion Chinese don’t mind we call it Chinese New Year. Everyone I asked here in Hong Kong seemed perfectly fine with it. However, you are more than welcome to call it Spring Festival or Lunar New Year if you want. There are various theories about the origin of Chinese New Year but the one that is accepted by most is that it began with Emperor Yao in China's bronze age. When Emperor Yao ascended to the throne, he brought his subordinates and people together to worship the sky and the earth. The day of his inauguration was set as the starting day of a year, and people have gathered annually to worship ever since. China has influenced a great many cultures around the world and continues to do so today. Calling it Chinese New Year seems suitable to me as long as I’m here in Hong Kong. You can call it whatever you want :)

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Kung Hei Fat Choi everyone! :)

The year of the Metal Ox is about hard work and those who work hard are said to be rewarded in 2021. If you ask me, anyone who works hard is bound to be rewarded eventually. However, you need to combine hard work with working smart. There are plenty of people who break their backs working really hard every day and hardly see any significant payoff. Your direction in life has a lot to do with your personal input. Don’t expect to get what you want if you’re not willing to put in the hours. And perhaps this year – the year of the Metal Ox – will be your year.

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Cassies's hotpot! OMG - as Harry would say! ;)

The Savagars invited me for homemade hotpot in Sai Kung and that offer was too good to resist. The Savagars have been very kind to me and invited me to stay in their guestroom even before we reached Hong Kong in January 2020. We sort of went through the pandemic together as I stayed with the family for five months. Ah, I remember when I used to think the virus outbreak would be over with in just a few months. Here were all are…much wiser. Or maybe not. But here we are. Cassie is a genius in the kitchen and the hotpot was other worldly! While Cassie was getting the food ready James and I saw second half of ‘The Mole’ which features an interesting character called “Mr James”. Edward was busy with his iPad and Harry was out playing with his friends. The windows were outfitted with traditional Chinese New Year decorations. It was really nice. Once we finished dinner, I was ready to roll over and die. Rarely do I eat that much but it was sooooooo good and Cassie kept adding more food to my bowl. We finished the evening playing Kahoot before I headed back home. Interestingly a very popular New Years gift consists of Danish butter cookies in a round tin can of the Danish brand Kelsen! That is funny for several reasons. First of all, the factory is nearby where I grew up as a child, and my mother worked at the factory for a while. I have memories of her bringing us cookies. It’s also funny because every year Maersk orders a large quantity of these cookies and hands them out left and right to employees, customers, partners etc. Between Cassie and James, they have more than forty years of Maersk working experience and have certainly seen their fair share of Kelsen cookies. I brought a tin can anyway :)

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Lai see envelopes decorating the tree.

‘Lei see’ or ‘red packets’ are fancy little red envelopes that contain good luck money. Giving lai see to people is a big part of the Chinese New Year celebrations and it follows certain rules. First of all, you give or receive lei see with both hands. That’s quite rudimentary out here in this part of the world and goes for business cards and many other things as well. The amount the envelops contain can be anything but I have found that a very common amount is HKD 20.00 (USD 2.60). My favorite thing about lei see is that the amount doesn’t matter – it is the gesture which is important. Kristy, who works in marketing at Ritz Carlton, invited her husband Mark and I to join the hotels New Year celebration ceremony. Lots of lei see were being handed out left and right!! And all of it for good luck and fortune. It is sort of a top-down system where you receive lei see from your boss but do not give your boss lei see. And you are not expected to hand out lei see if you are unmarried. In households only children receive lei see. So, when I joined the Savagars for hotpot Cassie and James got nothing (except for cookies) while I gave Edward and Harry an envelope each.

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Lion dance during the New Year God Worship Ceremony at the Ritz Carlton driveway.

At the Ritz, Kristy and Mark were handing out lei see left and right. Kristy had a handbag which would have contained hundreds of envelops! She laughed and told me that she would soon run out and have to return to her office for more. At the elevator we came across some staff and Kristy immediately offered them lei see but they all humbly declined saying that they already received. LOVE IT!! That really goes to prove that it is the gesture and not the money which is important. Such honesty and honor! While I love Egypt, I just couldn’t see this operating the same way there. Or in many other countries to be honest. While people around the world are just people it is interesting to see how elements of culture affect us. The ceremony involved a priest of sorts, a roasted pig, blessings and lion dance! Lion dance is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture and other Asian countries in which performers mimic a lion's movements in a lion costume to bring good luck and fortune. It is accompanied by a lot of noise!! Earplugs are advised! Yet, it is super amazing to witness! I’ve seen it a few times before and it always adds to feeling of being far away from home - in a good way.

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Andrew, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

My friend Andrew from Chicago, USA, held a socially responsible farewell get-together before heading back home. We also managed to squeeze in a final hike together. We first met in June 2020 when my beard was shorter and I have long ago lost count of how many hikes we have been on since then. Andrew was featured in South China Morning Post last year for having hiked all of Hong Kong’s trails which is quite an accomplishment. After 2.5 years of working in finance (common trade among many expats) he accepted a job back home. I will miss Andrews sharp mind and calm personality. Within the Saga I have rarely been long enough anywhere to see people leave. Coming and leaving is a part of life in Hong Kong and I have already seen many good friends leave. There goes another one.

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Andrew heading up Dogs Teeth Ridge.

Our final hike was a trail known as East Dogs Teeth Ridge. Some say it’s the hardest in Hong Kong but both Andrew and I shake our heads at that. It is no beginners trek though. We headed up under a clear blue sky and had great visibility across the islands. What a wonderful way to say farewell to Hong Kong. When my time comes, I know that I will cry. I feel so connected to Hong Kong by now. My tears will likely also be of joy for finally leaving! But for now, it seems that we will still have several months to go before that becomes reality.

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Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

As some of you already know I’ve been given the honor of working as the assistant of the Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong Kong. I’m contracted by Danske Sømands- og Udlandskirker (DSUK) in Denmark and have some wonderful colleagues here some 8,662km (5,382.32mi) away from home.

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Another day on the job.

In my job I service Danish flagged ships which have so far only been Maersk vessels. No wonder as they are the world's largest container shipping company by both fleet size and cargo capacity! Maersk has provided this unique project we call Once Upon A Saga with great assistance and support for several years now. I have been spotting their containers globally across more than 190 countries while tweeting them to Maersk as #MaerskMoments. Furthermore, I have had the pleasure of visiting Maersk offices across more than fifty countries in which I have entertained and inspired staff with stories and adventure. In return I have frequently had access to their ships as a passenger, I have many friends within Maersk, they have provided me with invitation letters, accommodation, meals and I have joined several company events. The connection goes beyond that and I jokingly call them “the unofficial partner of Once Upon A Saga” :)

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Newspapers in all sorts of languages.

Among my daily chores I email the ships letting them know that we are ready to service them as well as possible during these troublesome times. As such I often run errands buying the seafarers whatever they request. So far that has been anything from a PS5 to coffee, food supplements and guitar strings. We also print out newspapers in multiple languages thanks to the support of SEA HEALTH & WELFARE. Once I have everything ready I head to the port and deliver. But these days seafarers cannot leave the ship unless they are scheduled for crew change and us landlubbers cannot join the ships for lunch or coffee. So, I simply deliver, thank them for their serve and wish them: fair winds and following seas.

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The port of Hong Kong is one of the busiest ports in the world.

Yeah – a lot of things are going well for Once Upon A Saga even though we have no chance of continuing to the remaining nine countries and have been stuck in Hong Kong for more than a year. Yesterday I received notice from Instagram that the account has finally been verified! That is pretty cool. The verification is, much as the word says, a verification of a notable public figure, celebrity or global brand. It is simply a small blue star next to the account name. Anyone can create an account called Once Upon A Saga but now people can easily find the authentic account. The other part of getting verified is pure status. The little blue star is a coveted addition to any account. The Secretary General of the Danish Red Cross (Anders Ladekarl) has several times been fighting fake accounts in his name with profiles claiming to be the Secretary General. You can probably imagine how that can be dangerous. Once Upon A Saga’s Facebook account got verified a long time ago and while both Facebook and Instagram are part of the same company we simply couldn’t get verified until now.

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Excellent scene in Kung Fu Hustle staring Hong Kong's Stephen Chow! Notice the background ;)

There’s as always lots of stuff going on in the background of this project. I don’t feel the need to share it all but I do think you should know that I am somewhat stretched for time. I get an awfully lot done across an average week which is both good and bad. Good because it is always good to get stuff done. Bad because I rarely give myself a break. I pick up small stuff as well which I shouldn’t be spending my time on. For instance, a friend and I got into a debate about the length of one of Hong Kong’s four long-distance trails: the Hong Kong Trail. The length is often listed as 50km (31mi) between markers 001-100 but I have been doubting the distance since the very first time I went across it. Also, some of my friends and I are aware that official races often extend the course (well beyond the markers) to Shek O adding extra distance to meet the 50 km required for the races. Marker number 100 is found at Big Wave Bay indicating that the trail might be 47km (29mi) and not 50km. Furthermore, my personal GPS readings often read around 46-47 km for the Hong Kong Trail. I’m not one to back down from a debate – especially not one in which I believe that I am right. The problem with claiming that a distance is shorter than what people think, is that you are “steeling” from people’s achievements. If you believe you hiked or ran 50km and find out the distance was really 47km then it is less of an achievement. Still a great achievement though.

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Well, right is right. I wrote the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and lo and behold they replied with the above answer!! AFCD is, among other things, responsible for managing Hong Kong’s country parks and they do a mighty fine job of that if you ask me! And now we know that the length of the Hong Kong Trail is 47.5km (+/- 1km).

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Our final nine countries depicted by Iceland's RUV. Full interview here.

Yes – silly regarding the trail length, I know. But I can assure you that my time is spent on more important things as well. Once Upon A Saga is a far more demanding project than what most people imagine. And I work hard on keeping this “train on its rails”. We would not have come this far without the support of our partners. Especially Ross DK and Geoop have been invaluable over and over again. Not only have they covered about 50% of the project’s expenses…back in early 2014 they arranged for us to travel across the North Sea onboard the good ship Westerkade, which brought us from Iceland to Canada. And they did that by contacting Reederei-Buss in Germany who owned the ship. There have been so many connections and so many people across the years. And I am grateful for every one of them! Thank you all!

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)

 

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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - verified.

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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The long game – sticking it out in Hong Kong

Day 2,682 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

Let’s get real about it

pano

Hi, I’m Thor from Denmark. I’m among the 300 most traveled people on earth and I am nine countries from becoming the first in history to reach every country completely without flying. I’m an accomplished goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross, and have paid a visit to the movement in 189 countries, raised awareness, raised funds and have symbolically connected the world’s largest humanitarian organization throughout the past seven years. My determinism, positive demeanor and ingenuity has been an example, inspiration and motivation for thousands of people. And I am tired.

Last week’s entry: Another story of endurance and teamwork – Hong Kong continued

I do not want to be in Hong Kong. There’s nothing wrong with Hong Kong – or, well, you know…there isn’t a perfect place on this planet. However, Hong Kong is not the reason why I don’t want to be in Hong Kong. I HAVE VERY LITTLE CHOICE! If we are to complete this project then the choices are as follows: get on a small boat and head into the enormous Pacific Ocean and chance it, or wait it out in Hong Kong. I’m not much of a “chance it” person unless the odds are in my favor. My only other option, as I see it, is to quit and head home. Whether you believe in the pandemic (which I think you should) or not, then there is no dispute that parts of this planet are locked down and that life is globally affected. And eight of the final nine countries, which we have remaining within Once Upon A Saga, are locked down. The Maldives is open for tourism and can be found slightly southwest of India in the Indian Ocean some 4.257km (2.645mi) away from Hong Kong. The Pandemic sucks!! It has robbed us of lives, jobs, freedom, dreams and plans. Do not let it rob you of hope! This is temporary. Play the long game!! Sure, the vaccines are rolling out later than promised and sure, we have been stuck in limbo for more than a year. And sure, there are other important issues across this planet which must be addressed as well: a lack of clean drinking water for millions, hunger, poverty, armed conflict, malaria, dengue, AIDS, pollution, global warming, climate change, natural disasters, corruption, injustice and much, much more. The world is NOT a perfect place – but I can guarantee you that it is far better than what you what you could possibly imagine. Many things have improved over the past twenty years but thats for a different entry.

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What the heck are we going to do about this stupid pandemic? And know that it is not the last one we are going to experience! In my parent’s lifetime the population has risen from three billion to almost eight billion people! This planet is literally covered in bacteria and viruses are plentiful. According to scientist there are diseases deep inside forest which we have not even encountered yet. And as our population grows, we find ourselves in closer and closer contact with the animals we coinhabit this planet with. Viruses will jump. And with billions of new human hosts, viruses have a much higher chance of mutating. Some mutations will be benign while others will be harmful. In less than thirty years we will be ten billion people on this planet. Of course we are going to see more pandemics. History is full of them and that represents a time with far fewer people. Well, to answer my own question in relation to what we are supposed to do: we are supposed to take it seriously. The vaccines will eventually reach us and we are supposed to take them without a fuss. I personally cannot wait until I get my chance but so far Hong Kong is waiting for peer reviewed clinical trials of phase three (or so I have heard). Meanwhile we are supposed to stick to what we have been told to do for more than a year: wash hands, wear mask, keep social distance, follow the rules and use common sense. Your mailman, carpenter, office colleague or best friend might be smart. But unless they have a formal education in a relevant science, then they might not be the right ones to trust when it comes to COVID-19. To me it seems that there is an overwhelming consensus amongst epidemiologists, researchers, doctors, virologists and generally people in lab coats, that we should take this virus seriously. And while we have not experienced more than a few million deaths at this point, I think it’s safe to assume its because of all the things we have done to delay and combat this stupid virus.

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Yeah – it is frustrating. People find it a lot easier to wait five minutes for a bus if they know it will arrive after five minutes, than waiting three minutes but not knowing how long they will have to wait for. We do not know how long we will have to wait for before COVID-19 is defeated and the world will return to normal (whatever normal was). It is stressful to wait without knowing for how long. People snap. It is understandable. Parents love their children – but being locked into a house with them is something else. Nobody said this was going to be easy and for many it surely isn’t. So, what do we do? We follow the guidelines, we respect the restrictions (even when they don’t make sense) and we try to make the best of it. The worst thing you can do to yourself is look back at the pandemic and see it as a couple of years lost. The best thing you can do is look back at it and see it as a time where you grew as a person, developed skills and became more accomplished. Especially in spite of the adversity we face.

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Personally, I am sick and tired of all of this. I have mentioned it many times before and I’ll mention it again: I have been wanting to head home since 2015. I did not need this pandemic to come in and delay the Saga further. Without the pandemic I could possibly have been home by October last year instead of in…well, who knows now? 2021 is out of the question. We need a minimum of ten months to reach the final nine countries under the best of circumstances. Australia and New Zealand, two wonderful countries, may not even open their borders this year. In fact, it is likely that they don’t. I left home in 2013 projecting this project would be accomplished within four years (seven days per country). It has now cost me seven years of my life and I am frankly in doubt how much more of my life I am still willing to pay for it. I’m older, my fiancée is magically not older (but still). Will we be able to start a family? Is it already too late? Was that a part of the price? The border into Hong Kong has been closed since March 2020. Where there is a will, there is a way – right? I’ve been “looking for an unlocked door along an endless wall” for so long now. The difference between success and defeat is sometimes just a question about when you give up. There’s a TV series called “Alone” in which contestants need to survive individually on their respective islands in the wild. They do not have any form of outside contact and cannot know if anyone has given up. The one that survives for the greatest number of days is the winner. While on your island you cannot know if you are competing against one person or ten. And you cannot know if the other contestants are ready to give up or are as strong as a rock. Not knowing is sometimes a horrible state of mind. Not giving up is sometimes the key to victory.

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Why am I stressed out over Once Upon A Saga? Well, first and foremost: it is not a holiday. The Saga has for years been a job with a multitude of obligations. And it keeps on going with an unknown end date. I manage everything from social media to visas and everything in between. I do get some help for somethings though. There is no real “holiday” from this project as any time off will be an extension to the end date. I have tried taking a break but it doesn’t help me relax. I’m virtually in a tunnel of countries always heading for the light which is often not visible. If I stick it out then there is a chance that I will become the first in history to reach every country completely without flying. It will however not land in my lap and it requires a lot of work. If someone is out there in an attempt to accomplish the same, then there is another unknown timeline I’m fighting against. There is also the timeline of my friends and family’s patience with me and the Saga. It his all good and well to accomplish something ambitious and unique, however if it means not being there for birthdays, weddings, graduations, bad days and good days…well… Finally, the entire weight of Once Upon A Saga is carried upon my shoulders. Now, with a hundred thousand online followers, interviews across more than 150 countries and the promise I made to the world of always keeping on keeping on. What happens if I cannot keep on keeping on? The choice is mine. But once you build something which is bigger than yourself, then it no longer comes without a responsibility. And that means I will have to reach the final nine countries completely without flying no matter if I want to or not.

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The Church Council of the Danish Seamen's Church in Hong Kong. I knew most of them before I became an assistant. The job is going well.

I do not want to be in Hong Kong. I also do not want to be stuck due to a pandemic. However, the pandemic was not a matter of choice and in the light of that, getting stuck in Hong Kong has been nothing short of a blessing. The kindness I have received all across Hong Kong, the friends which I have made, the doors which have been opened to me, the experiences I have gained, the opportunities I have been offered, the things which we have accomplished – Hong Kong may very well be the very best place to be stuck during a pandemic. The virus is well under control and numbers are going down again. We may even see restrictions easing up after Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, Lunar New Year…a dear child has many names. It begins today – so: HAPPY NEW YEAR! Nobody can default me for not making the best of this year in Hong Kong. It has by no means been a year wasted. The past year has been the year of the Metal Rat which was said to be a year of new beginnings and new opportunities for finding true love and earning more money. Oh well, I guess it was in some ways. This new year is that of the Metal Ox. In the Chinese Zodiac, the Ox is very hardworking and methodical. 2021 is going to be a year when work will get rewarded, and those zodiac signs who are lucky in terms of money this year will be the ones that will make a considerable effort. Let’s hope that will come true. I have been working hard on something for a long while and hope to see it rewarded this year.

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My final words to you this time will be this: do not despair. Take the example of the ox and work hard and methodical. Stay on track. Treat a stranger as a friend to be. Remember that the pandemic has touched us all and that everyone is affected by it. People are just people and together we will keep on keeping on. This is day 2,682 of Once Upon A Saga. Do you remember the time I quit and went home? No, neither do I because it never happened.

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Thanks for the wine Mr. Söderberg. Much appreciated! :)

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)

 

 Patreon Picture2MobilePay

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - just a guy.

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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Another story of endurance and teamwork – Hong Kong continued

Day 2,675 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

Thankfully I have friends

pano

I have distant memories of Hong Kong. So distant that it is hard to believe that they are in fact relatively recent. The past year has been full of encounters, events, meetings and places. My mind sends me flashbacks all the time. I feel like my mind is a hard disk drive which is running out of memory.

Last week’s entry: Tragedy or celebration – a year in Hong Kong

I haven’t quite worked out how to manage all the new activity across social media and the higher influx of emails. Perhaps a few models could work? One strategy would be to reply to people for twenty minutes every day and ignore the rest. Another solution could be to reply to thirty people every day and ignore the rest. Back in January I pushed whatever I could into February (Interviews, meetings etc). Well, here we are. And February should be a lot easier than January although we were off to a really rough start. Let’s go a week back to the day I released last week’s entry.

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Chinese New Year is approching - some people don't llike it when it is called that.

Last week the Friday Blog was online at around 1pm and I barely managed to get 45 minutes of sleep before heading out to the Savagars in Sai Kung. For months my friends and I had been preparing for the MacLehose Trail which is sometimes referred to as the Grandaddy of Hong Kong’s long-distance trails. A 100km (62mi) path across much of the New Territories, with a 5,000m (16,400ft) elevation gain (and decent) along the way. It is a popular trail which sees many hikers and trail runners every day somewhere along the ten different stages. Over time many athletes have tamed the full distance with impressive times. In fact, the fastest known time (FKT) is a mere 10 hours and 38 minutes. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department estimate that a hike through all ten stages would take about 35.5 hours putting the FKT into perspective! I wanted to see if I could manage the distance under 24 hours and last Friday I headed out to the Savagars who live very near to the trail start. It was as always good to see Harry, Edward, Cassie, James and Arlene! Arlene had cooked a massive lasagna for me and I was joined by Harry and Edward while I ate THREE FULL PORTIONS! Probably not a good idea just before such an endurance test but it tasted really good. The first episode of the Mandalorian season two was on in the background: this is the way. Edward showed me his LEGO Saturn V rocket which was beyond impressive! And then after a short while Cassie drove me and the boys to the visitor’s center, which is as far as you can go with a car. We said farewell which I recorded in a short video. The younger Harry was, as always, the media darling greeting the camera with a bold “What’s up guys!” and a smile. Edward was hiding behind Cassie while grinning. We parted and a few minutes later I joined Anders at the trail start. We still had a few minutes before 6pm – and we wanted to start sharp.

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Ready. Set. Go!! Together with Anders. 0km (0mi) - 0 min.

At 6 pm exactly we started our Garmin watches and began making our way. I had been couched a little by Frank who has been though the MacLehose Trail three times already setting some impressive times. A few other Danes in Hong Kong such as Bjørn and Thomas S. have also earned their stripes on the ultra-distance trail. Would I make or break? I was nervous. The kind of nervousness which comes when you suddenly doubt your own preparedness. Or perhaps the feeling which comes in the moment when you, far too late, realize what it is you have embarked on. My body new I was nervous long before it dawned on my mind. My stomach had been uneasy since midday. Well, there was no turning back now. Anders was joining me for the first 62km (38.5mi) which according to the plan would be the entire night. So roughly 13 hours. The sun was about to set as we began the trail and for the first hour, we could manage without our head torches. At around daybreak we would meet up with Kenneth who would join me across stages seven and eight. Two stages which are home to three of Hong Kong’s highest mountains (Needle Hill, Grassy Hill and Tai Mo Shan). Then before noon we were scheduled to meet Poul who would fast-walk/run the final two stages with me. Everyone was bringing food. Everything had been scheduled and coordinated. Was it going to work?

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We had a bright moon for much of the night.

It was a long monotonous night. Some 12-13 hours of darkness. Anders was the right man for the job! He had never before done more than 40km (25mi) in a single hike so a third would be unfamiliar territory for Anders. However, we were well prepared. We knew the terrain and had the right equipment. Besides – Anders is a very strong hiker. We agreed to run the downhill bits and some of the flats to make good time. And we ticked off the first two stages with an extra 6 minutes in the bank. We also won some time on the next two stages, which are largely regarded as the two toughest stages on the trail. I twisted my left ankle twice and pulled my right ankle in the night. But nothing so serious that we had to stop or slow down. And I stomped my toes on an untold number of stones along the path. It is the kind of stuff that happens when the mind and body start to get tired. I always find those hours around 2am really rough. Those are the hours when a voice in my head strongly begin to question the sanity of the situation: “what are you doing? You could be at home sleeping. Who is this for? Who cares if you make it or not? Just go home”. That same voice also tortures me regarding the Saga. Around 4am I was feeling strong. I had found the right balance between energy bars, energy gels, pace, clothing and strides. Anders was by my side and we knew the sun would be greeting us after just three more hours. To my surprise we were not alone in the night?! Every so often we would come across small teams with backpacks and head torches – where they also doing the entire trail? No time to chitchat. Go. Go. Go! We also came across some senior citizens walking along the road with canes in the middle of the night? Sometimes listening to music as they went along. Hong Kong never fully sleeps.

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Making time!

DAYBREAK! It was a welcome gesture from the sky. It was time for Anders to head home and Kenneth to take over by my side. Anders lives in a small village on Lantau Island so he likely had at least 90 minutes home. That would be a tough transit after such a night! I gave Anders my sweaty long- and short sleeve t-shits along with my head torch. Meanwhile Anders and Kenneth refilled my Salomon soft flasks and drinking pouch with water and sports drink while I put on the fresh ones Kenneth had brought me. I thanked Anders, began biting into the homemade sandwich Kenneth brought along and off we went. We had lost some time on stages five and six and Kenneth was hellbent on winning some of it back. We weren’t far off the time line and we were chasing and separate goal apart from completing the trail in less than 24 hours. I’m highly competitive with some things. And I knew what Franks best time was and didn’t mind shaving a bit off it. Furthermore, Thomas S. had taunted me by stating that he would expect a young man like me to complete the trail in less than twenty hours. It was within reach. Would I burn out or could we keep the pace?

4

With Kenneth after 76km (47.22mi) - 16 hours in.

Kenneth was “flying” across stages seven and eight! Faster than I had ever seen him before. It was clear that he was going to do his outmost to deliver on his part – and he did!! My knees had begun acting up. It had started during the night as I felt that something had sort of tightened across my kneecaps. And as I kept going it began to feel more like a crystalized pain within my kneecaps. Every breath I took felt like if they were drawn in cold icy weather. Like a mild icing of my lungs. My hair was slimy from the salty sweat. My skin was covered in salt. My muscles felt strong though and I had a good balance of energy to work with. We were making great time! Up hill was less of a problem for me. Down hill became rather painful for my knees. Tai Mo Shan is the tallest of Hong Kong’s mountains and the last vertical challenge on the trail. It towers over Hong Kong at an elevation of 957m (3,14ft) and the plan had always been to run down it once we reached the peak. The pain in my knees were however not encouraging the idea. I suggested that we could try jogging 8kph (5mph) instead of the usual 10kph (8mph). But we sat out with 10kph almost from the begging and kept the pace all the way down. It was about three times as painful to run as it was to walk downhill. But, pain is temporary – right? And I have some experience with pushing through pain. It wasn’t long before we reached Poul.

6

 

Click HERE to watch the video!! :)

THE FINAL TWO STAGES!! We quickly refilled my water pouches and parted with Kenneth who had ensured us an astonishing swift time across stages seven and eight. Morale was high! Poul and I continued on the mostly flat final two stages. Poul is a very fast hiker (as long as it's flat) and he was onboard with the idea of getting us below twenty hours. We ran the downhill stretches to the displeasement of my knees, which were crying out for mercy! Get in line!!! At this point I was dealing with my lungs, my left shoulder, the bones within my feet, my abs and my chest muscles. Great stuff! At forty-two I was the youngest within the team. Kenneth has a year on me, Poul is forty-nine and Anders is more than fifty. We had done well! It was now time for the final push! Poul and I were advancing rapidly under a blue sky. It was a beautiful day and the end was getting closer with every step. After hours of pushing hard we reached the final decent and stopped the time at 19 HOURS and 35 MINUTES!! Solid effort!!! A time my Russian friend Pavel who used to race semiprofessional, would later refer to as a 7th place in the 65+ age category for women. Probably not unrealistic but I was happy with the time. Overall, we had kept a pace of 5.1kph (3.17mi) across 100km (62mi) and an overall elevation gain of 5.023m (16.480ft). It accumulated to 136,224 steps and I burned 9,329 calories which is equivalent to around thirty-five hamburgers! (which would explain why I have been so hungry ever since). What an ordeal!! Thank you SO MUCH to Anders, Kenneth and Poul! The three right friends and the exact right stages of the trail. VIDEO HERE! :)

7

With Poul after 99.35km (61.73mi) - 19hrs 35min. DONE!

Afterwards Poul and I hopped into a taxi and set out to pay Kenneth a visit. It was only a short 15-minute ride but I couldn’t stay awake. A blister on one foot had begun to reveal itself and there were no comfortable positions for my knees. As we arrived, I felt like I had climbed out of a car crash. The few minutes it took to reach Kenneth’s door might as well have been a marathon. The fifteen-step staircase was like a mountain. Inside I had a Cola and the subway Poul had brought me which I never ate until then. Actually, I did not eat it – I inhaled it! I didn’t stick around to celebrate for long. I was too done for and we soon called me a taxi. The ride home might only have been ten minutes but I fell asleep again. Once home, I quickly took a photo to announce the victory to the world, had a shower, brushed my teeth and went straight to bed. It was 4:13pm. I woke up again around 10:30pm  because I was too hungry to sleep. So, I got up and felt the full wraith of both my knees begging me never to walk again!! Bah – pain is temporary – right? I cooked some dinner, inhaled it, brushed my teeth and went back to sleep. Usually, I would stretch after such an ordeal, sort my gear and do the dishes. Not that day!! I left it all undone and fell asleep again.

8

Monday: shopping for the ship. Thursday: urban hike w. the boys.

8b

Getting ready to climb a few steps with a PS5 on my shoulder. The good ship Maersk Eindhoven (my job as an assistant of the Danish Seamen's Church).

The following day I walked 0.41km (1,378ft). But the day after that I had to run some errands for a ship and among other things buy a Play Station 5 for the crew. So that day I limped about 6.6km (4.1mi) including a very long climb up the gangway followed by a very long climb down. The captain was super cool though and the crew was ecstatic about PS5 which would be welcome during their trip across the Pacific Ocean. My right knee quickly got better but my left knee still has some way to go. It has been getting better every day though so I am not worried at all. Yeah – I have been resting up, doing some easy chores, I have been replying to emails, social media, interviews etc. I have had a few video calls and I have slept more than usual. Afternoons have generally been calling for a nap. And I have been constantly hungry. During some meals I had to eat four portions to satisfy my energy consumption. On top of everything I have found myself easily irritated and at times frustrated. I guess that comes with the overall physical stress. But, its not just that. The Saga is a highly stressful project and the overall question of when it might be time to pack up and head home is always banging on the door. You may say that we are so close and that there are “only” nine countries left. I may reply that I have already spent seven years of my life on something which was supposed to take less than four.

9

I appreciate street buskers so much more now that concerts are out of the question.

We did not reach 194 countries in an unbroken journey without flying by accident. While most people who follow the Saga today are blissfully ignorant of what it took to get this far…some of us are aware. It has come with a lot of sacrifice and hard work. The Saga, as people experience it today, hardly resembles what it was for six years as we were moving along. Today it is more than anything a waiting game. A test of endurance on my part. Back in December I thought we could have a chance for moving on in March 2021. Today I laugh at that. I fear that the pandemic is going to turn far uglier before we see the end of it. And I am almost certain that it will take much longer before we can set sail out of Hong Kong. Let’s see…it is hard to predict – especially about the future.

10

Upon a tradition which Thomas (of the Andersen Clan), Kenneth, Poul, Jesper and I have begun, we went hiking again yesterday (Thursday). We aim at a few hours of urban hiking which offers little elevation, and then we follow up by celebrate our marvelous accomplishment with a glorious meal and a reasonable amount of red wine. Last nights hike was a bit over the top for my knee and I also found myself enjoying a very reasonable amount of wine. I have made many fine friends during my time here and I have no doubt that a tear will run across my cheek the day the Saga finally depart Hong Kong. That is the bright side of the pandemic: there will be many more Thursday hikes.

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

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If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)

 

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Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - recovering.

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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